A few weeks ago, the owner of California Badminton Academy, Rose Lei, gave me a book: The autobiography/memoir of the badminton legend Hou Jia Chang. It turns out the book has been in print in China for a couple of years but there has not been much coverage on it. Rose had her husband bring back a few dozen copies from China and gave them out to badminton fans. I was very honored to have received a copy.
I am not the reading type, my bookshelves are populated mostly by technical manuals and occasional books on photography and other miscellaneous topics. I am certainly not a history type of person and have never read a biography in my life.
But this one, it is very different. Hou Jia Chang is a pioneer in badminton in China. He along with Tang Xinfu were the pillars of the Chinese badminton team in the 60-70s. Hou and Tang were household names, at least in badminton household. Being a relatively young badminton fan, I didn't know much about Hou aside from his name and a few major achievements. In those time, videos are very rare and old media coverage are not readily available.
But as a badminton fanatic, I knew this was a must-read.
Reading this book was an eye-opening experience. Hou described his life around badminton from early childhood days in Indonesia, till how he went back to China to serve in the Guangdong province team to how he advanced to the national team and his glorious achievement in both national and international tournament.
Post retirement from his playing career, he stayed on as a coach in the Chinese team, now part of the IBF, and how he trained his students like Yang Yang, Zhao Jinhua, Han Jian and Xiong Guobao to world championships, Thomas Cups and other titles.
What striked me while reading his book was how Hou managed to get so much done, how he managed to achieve such high level of achievement in badminton with so little resources. His first racket was a broken piece of throwaway that was sawed and glued back together, he could not afford shoes so he plays outdoor barefooted until blisters pops, then he soak his feet in cold water to numb the pain and continue.
Even when in the province team, they only had very thin ration they train in hunger and the women team was so kind to share 1/4 of their meal so the guys can train harder. It was in this tough times where the players really had to rely in each other's support and care. The most amazing bonds must have been made at this time.
Despite such hardship, Hou was driven by his desire and dream to be the greatest; despite such hardship, his passion and love for badminton took him from a boy playing in a backyard in Indonesia to one of the greatest badminton player in history.
What really moved me with his book is not what he has achieved, but instead how other people around him supported his quest and how much his family sacrificed for him. I was especially moved while reading the chapter about his wife, how in the 20 years of marriage she worked so hard for the family and how much they cared about each other. I had tears in my eyes reading how she was suffering with ovarian cancer and how he tried his best to make her happy at the very late stage of her struggle.
Up till today, Hou is still passionate about badminton as he once was. The last section of the book is dedicated for the young and aspiring badminton players out there. It was his piece of advice to those who want to succeed in badminton.
It is not a very big book. Despite so, the total of 170 page of Hou Jia Chang's autobiography was such a treasure chest of Hou's history as well as Chinese badminton history narrated by the man himself, I just could not put it down. I started around 8pm in the evening and only had to put it down to get some rest at 4.30am and finished it the next morning.